Mobile Plant Maintenance

Smart Solutions Trend: Plant Maintenance Goes Mobile with Industry 4.0

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The next step is to gain employee acceptance for the new tools, which is not always easy. Sahl recommends that companies try to persuade employees to use the devices even if that involves a small 'bribe'. “If employees are allowed to keep a tablet for their own private use after it has been written off, you would be amazed how careful they are to keep the devices in good condition.”

The analysts of Salzburg Research even go one step further: Besides the willingness to embrace new technologies, they claim that communication skills are a key qualification needed for mobile units and solutions. To use data on the network, you have to be able to work in an interconnected company environment. However, the soft skills needed to do this do not necessarily come naturally to every technology specialist at the company.

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Once employees have devices which are suitable for field work and actually use them, it is important to provide exactly the information they need – no more and no less. Real time data collected from the process control systems could also be made available, but is that really useful?

“Too much data is now actually as much of a problem as not enough information,” explained Sahl. If the engineers say “we will take all the data you have” and the IT people say “we can provide you with whatever you want”, its up to the maintenance personnel to ask what all this information will be used for. Real time data acquisition can be a very powerful tool, but it can also be highly dangerous.

Who Owns the Data?

At Maintain, Bernd Bienzeisler from the Fraunhofer Institute urged people not to allow themselves to become IT–slaves. “It is very tempting to entrust your data to a seemingly low-cost cloud infrastructure, but once you relinquish your expertise, you become dependent on third parties. If you rely on others, you may suddenly find out that you have to pay for your own data”, he added.